My Audio Book Experience

Hello everyone, I hope you are doing well. I thought I would come on here and discuss something I have recently come to realise. I have always been a firm activist for the preservation of physical books. They, in my humble opinion, are superior in many ways. I love feeling the weight of a book, as it reminds me that these words came from someone’s imagination. A book makes them feel real. I have many more reasons as to why I prefer reading books, but that’s a completely different blog post.

Recently, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to pick up a book. The motivation to do so has been laying dormant somewhere inside me. But the desire and urge to read remained. I’ve been focussing most of my time on academic reading for my degree, of which has left me devoid of motivation for recreational reading.

I’m an Amazon Prime customer and am constantly bombarded with Audible advertisements, offering me 2 free credits for any audio books of my choosing. As I mentioned earlier I haven’t read a book in some time, so I decided to try Audible. I chose a book that interested me and decided I would try to fall asleep while listening to it. My only experience with audio books would be when I used an app that read soft sleep stories, in soothing hushed tones that lull you to sleep. I quickly realised this experience was vastly different. The voices were very expressive and demanded to be heard. I ended up listening to 5 hours of the book without realising it.

I finished the audio book and swiftly selected my second free title. I was equally as drawn in to the story as I was with the first one. I am very shocked to have enjoyed it so much.

It has definitely helped me reinvigorate the motivation to read again. Almost. To be fair to myself, I have been writing more recently which is a positive thing.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this little post, it’s a lot less serious than a lot of my other posts recently.

Let me know what you prefer in the comments.


Jen X

Why I Haven’t Been Reading

Hello everyone,

I haven’t written a post just having a chat in a little while. I have been in writing mode for a while and have enjoyed getting my creative juices flowing.

However, I’ve found that it is proving very hard to read AND write at the same time. You see, I have been working on 3 short stories as well as my current WIP recently. This has come after having a break from writing as I had a lot of Uni work on. But somehow I still managed to read quite a few books and short stories while still doing uni work. I’m not sure how to balance both?

I’ve picked up a few books and read the first few chapters and each time proceeded to slam it down with frustration. Nothing is gripping me and I’m wondering if that is due to me being so invested in my own stories. It’s as though everything else doesn’t quite evoke the same feelings as my own.

I would like to think this is a good thing, but I miss reading. Yet I can’t bring myself to power through more than a couple of chapters.

I have been reading a lot of short stories here on WordPress, does that count?

I also quickly wanted to mention the current mismatched style of my blog. As I still consider myself a newbie blogger, I feel like I’m experimenting with what I want to post. I still love everything I’ve shared and hope the eclectic style is not distracting or off putting.

Anyway, ramble over. If you have any tips on how to balance writing with reading, please leave a comment!

Signed,

Jen X

My First Book Update: My Writing Journey Thus Far

A Bit Of History

I realised that is has been over a week since the birth of my blog, and I am yet to update you on the book I have been writing for the past 8 months.

I started this blog to hold myself accountable and to document my journey with finally writing a book from start to finish. So that’s what I’m going to start today. Right now.

I remember being around 9 when my teacher began encouraging my creativity through short stories. Ms. Sentkovsky has always been my main motivator.

The moment I decided I wanted to be an author replays in my mindseye whenever I feel a niggle of doubt attempting to poison my positive mindset. Ms. Sentkovsky came to me during break time with tears streaming from her eyes. I thought something awful had happened and I still remember my stomach dropping and the awful feeling of dread that took over. She took me aside and in her hands was a story I had written about a WWII solider named Thomas Clarke. This character was based off of my great great grandad, who was a solider in WWII. I had gathered information on him, who he was, how he spoke and what he looked like. I used him as the basis of my short story I had written for my teacher. My teacher finally told me, her tears were happy tears, proud tears and inspired tears. That was the day she told me, so definitively “Jenny, when you publish your first book, you better dedicate it to me!”

I have known since that encounter, that this is what I want to do. It is the only thing I can envisage myself doing for the rest of my life. Even if I fail a thousand times before I succeed. I will dedicate this book to you Ms. Sentkovsky.


My Book

So, I am around a third of the way through my first ever novel. It is a psychological thriller and I have just over 22,000 words. I aim to get around 80,000 total.

I do believe this story has trilogy potential, however if by the time I’ve completed it I feel the story has been told and has finished, I am okay with that.

Writing a psychological thriller is difficult as it requires a lot of problem solving in terms of the plot making sense; while still maintaining that element of confusion until all the pieces come together.

I’m not sure how much to talk about, so if anybody is interested it knowing more about my story, please let me know in the comments!

Signed,

Jen Writes x

Why Do I Do It?: A Poem

Why do I do it?

I don’t know

There’s something comforting about

the pain reminding me that I can feel

It breaks the unbearable numbness

The all-consuming nothing that feels like

Everything

When your mind tells you, you are

Nothing

Who do you believe?

Yourself?

Or those who don’t really know you?

They never knew me

If they did, they would understand

They would see why I must go

That’s why I do it until the pain is too much

Because I deserve it



To Read Or Not To Read: How To Squeeze More Reading Into Your Day

“We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming, our own consciousness in someone else’s mind.”

– Anna Quindlen

Like any reader knows, we have good reading weeks and we have bad ones. We can all empathise when we see others in the dreaded “reading slump”. When your TBR books bore into your soul every time you go to pick one up, but make a cup of tea and get into bed instead. Maybe that’s just me, but it can be difficult finding the time to read; especially if you fall out of the habit.

Sometimes it’s a case of taking a break only to come back with a replenished sense of eagerness to read. Other times there are things you can change in your daily routine that can help you read a little bit more.

These tips are just what I do when I feel like I need to read more! Maybe try some and see if it helps.

Put Your Phone Down

It sounds simple enough but I’ve found that you can either pour through social media scrolling endlessly seeing snippets of other peoples’ lives; or you can dedicate those lost hours to reading that book that’s collecting dust. When I’m on my phone it feels like I blink and its three hours later. Comparing that to the feeling I get after getting lost in a book for three hours is what makes me think twice when I wake up in morning. I consciously ignore my phone and reach for a book instead. Take thirty minutes to read silently, welcome the day with a good start and an exercised brain.

In short: put away your cellular devices and pick up that book.

Read What You Like

Again, it sounds really obvious but I ran into an issue with reading a few years ago. I wanted to read the books everyone else was reading, so I only read books that were trending at the time or on a bestselling list. I’m not saying they were bad books because I enjoyed them. The issue is, none of them were so gripping I couldn’t put them down. Not until I discovered the genres that suit me best and the kind of stories I am interested in. I still read multiple genres but key ones such as psychological thrillers, crime thrillers and horror are definitely my top favourites.

When you read a book you enjoy but wasn’t necessarily sucked into, it can demotivate you to carry on reading. Just keep reading, a lot, until you find the types of books that really excite you and motivate you to read more.

To cut a long story short: read whatever interests you, don’t focus on the popularity of the book because who knows, it might be your new favourite.

Read E-Books

Although I am usually a paperback kind of person, e-readers can be so useful when the desire to read strikes you whilst travelling on public transport. However long it takes you, if you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone, you can utilise that time to squeeze in a quick chapter or two. They are so portable and you can choose and download a book instantly while you wait for the next bus.

If like me you prefer a hard copy book, make sure you always pack at least two in your bag the night before. I find that when travelling somewhere I like to have a couple of options as sometimes the story is too complex to fully absorb while you are out in public. Sometimes I can but other times I find it difficult to fully commit, which is why I pack a more light-hearted book just in case.

If you feel comfortable eating lunch by yourself, I recommend trying to find a quiet place close to your workplace to eat and read. I used to work in a very fast-paced and busy environment so I liked to be alone during my break in order to recharge my batteries. Having a quiet and beautiful spot to read and be alone is a lovely way to get more reading in, as well as relaxing you half way through the work day. If you use an e-book, the wind can’t blow your pages around while you eat with one hand and hold the book with the other.

TLDR: Read on transport and during your lunch break.

Read In The Bathroom

Yes that is correct. Read in the bathroom. Or the toilet. Whenever I am really into a book, it becomes more like a third arm than a book; it comes with me everywhere I go. That includes but is not limited to the bath. There is nothing more relaxing than taking a steaming hot bath with candles (a substantial amount as I am blind as it is) and a book. Of course, it can delay the cleaning process but you just need a bit of self discipline. Tell yourself to read up to a certain page or chapter and then put it down.

Create A Goodreads Account

Managing a Goodreads account is an amazing way to track your reading. You can see all the books you’ve read, all the books you want to read as well as thousands of ratings and reviews to help you decide what to read next.

I got back into reading around three years ago and I loved to watch my collection grow. However, it was difficult to appreciate just how many books I was reading, until I created a Goodreads account. I was both shocked and excited at how many books I managed to read.

It is an amazing platform for both avid and casual readers to discover their next favourite book. Goodreads also has a list function in which its users can compile lists such as: ‘Best Thrillers’ to more niche lists such as: ‘Books About Videogames and Virtual Reality’. Whatever you’re interested in, I’m confident you will find something on one of the many lists available.

Listen To An Audio Book

Another relatively obvious tip, but if you enjoy being read to this might help kick start your reading again.

I personally always always fall asleep when listening to an audio book so it takes some time to finish one. Their voices are so soothing and calm it lulls me off into a deep and peaceful sleep.

To Conclude

I hope if you’re reading this you’ve found one of these tips useful! If you have any of your own feel free to leave a comment.

Just remember, you only have to read as much as you want to. There is no correct number of books you should be reading. If you find yourself in a slump, give one these a go. Reading is like exercise for the mind, sometimes its hard to find the motivation.


Daily Reading Recommendation

“A priest I knew once told me “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”

– John Marrs

I came across the book whilst scouring Amazon for new books to devour. I read the synopsis and went to buy it when I realise: it’s not coming out for a couple of months. I was upset I wasn’t going to be reading this amazingly original book the next day, but on the otherhand I had something to look forward to.

Marrs eloquently delivers a hardhitting, thought provoking and relevant story in such a unique manner. I would urge anyone to read this book.

I am currently working on a full book review of “The Passengers” so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested.

Signed,

Jen Writes x

Tradition VS Convenience: Should Printed Books Be Left In The Past?

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King

I chose this concept because it occurred to me that there may be people who have never read a physical book. There may be humans walking the planet as we speak, who have exclusively read e-books. That thought was a scary one for me to mull over but in doing so, I have come to a few realisations with regards to the debate of e-books Vs print books.

I do have a certain level of understanding with those of us who prefer to read e-books rather than a traditional printed hard-copy. It is an interesting debate and I would like to use this platform to give my 2 pence. It is especially interesting when you consider the quote by Stephen King I chose. Maybe it should be “(e)Books are a uniquely portable magic” I will come back to this quote analysis a little later on in the post.

Quick History Lesson

Historians largely agree that it was an ancient group of people who inhabited Mesopotamia (historical region of Western Asia) who first attempted to transcribe symbols onto mobile mediums such as stone around 3500 BC.

Example of early transcription

It wasn’t until around 105 AD that paper began to become favourable, this time period is sometimes referred to as “The Paper Revolution”. Moreover recent archaeological reports claiming to have discovered paper dated 8 BC, as well as the fact paper had been used in China from as early as 200 BC for wrapping and padding.

Books as we know them today have come a long way from symbols transcribed on clay or stone. But when was the first book printed? Though it was Johannes Gutenberg who first mass produced printed work (the Gutenberg Bible) printed books actually existed nearly 600 years before. The printing press has its origins in Asia centuries before the technology reached the West.

What Is An E-book?

According to Google an e-book is “an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a computer or a specifically designed handheld device.”

I remember the first time I saw a Kindle being advertised on the TV. The possibilities seemed endless. You can fit hundreds of books on one single device, which is so convenient for long-haul flights, busses, tubes and trains.

Have you ever borrowed a book from your mum, only to find the font is so small you can hardly read it without your eyes burning in their sockets? Well you can customise font and size on an e-reader such as a Kindle. If you don’t have enough room for eight bookcases in your home, you need not worry.

I get it. I really do. But…

Printed Books Are Better

Of course, this is just my personal opinion. As I said before, e-books are way more convenient, easier, quicker and maybe even more affordable. I myself have read a few e-books, mainly when I have just finished an amazing novel and I need something else in a hurry ;to fill the emptiness you feel once the last page has been read. Let me explain.

There are many things I love about books. The characters I meet and watch grow, the emotion it evokes from me and of course the feeling of reading a book with a satisfying ending – or perhaps a satisfyingly dissatisfying ending. But I also love the physical feeling of holding a book and turning its pages. The smell of the pages, the creases in the paper and even the weight of it. The fact we can physically hold a universe in our hands, or the life story of a WWI soldier is what makes me prefer printed books to e-books. To me, it increases its authenticity. Perhaps this is due to the fact I am a creature of habit. Or it could even be because when I see a book I loved reading as a child on my bookcase at home, it takes me back if only for a second.

Another compelling argument for e-books is the fact they are instant. You can find and read new titles almost instantly at anytime. You could be on a bus and feel like reading, but you didn’t anticipate this that morning. An e-reader gives you the freedom to read wherever you are. I myself have downloaded the Kindle app to buy books when the feeling arises. However, I remember during secondary school, I had the most ridiculously small bag, couldn’t fit a thing in it. Once I got back into reading again, I took into account that I needed space for all of my school books, as well as fiction books. Thus, get a bigger bag!

Stephen King Was Right

Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

E-books are still books, the words are the same, the story is the same and the characters are the same. The only difference is the way in which we consume the same product. It depends heavily on who you are, what you prefer and why you like to read in the first place. For me, reading physical books is an experience from reading dozens upon dozens of blurbs in the bookshop, to buying;it all the way up until I place it on my bookcase.

Everyone experiences reading in their own subjective way. Whether you read a story in a book or on a screen, even if you read a story written on the toilet door of a pub loo; there is magic in those words. That story came from somebodies heart, mind and soul. There is power in imagination, creativity serves us all. Consume it however you like!

To Answer My Own Question

No, printed books should not be left in the past. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t embrace and take advantage of the convenience of e-books either. At the end of the day they both allow us to enter other worlds and escape for a little while.

Also, does anybody else just love staring at their bookshelves? Reorganising and rediscovering stories as you proudly dust their resting place? Especially the books you have been given by others or the ones you find in a charity shop. I find myself wondering who may have enjoyed this story before I did; or perhaps who disliked it and decided to give it away. It makes printed books just that little bit more special to me.


Daily Reading Recommendation

“Never tell a lie when you can tell the truth. The truth isn’t always the safest course, but mostly it is.”

– Stephen King

Since we are already talking about Stephen King, why don’t you have a look at this if you haven’t already? I ordered this after reading ‘The Outsider’ by Stephen King, of which I realised only once I finished it; is a spin off from the Bill Hodges trilogy. I wondered why I didn’t connect with the main character like I thought I would. ‘Mr Mercedes’ is the first book in the trilogy and it is an amazing read.

It is a tightly plotted crime novel that still manages to retain the unmistakable Stephen King flavour he has become known for. It is without a doubt a novel of character and great depth. I managed to finish it in one sitting so if you choose to give it a go, get comfortable and don’t worry about that bookmark!

I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to comment what you think.

Signed,

Jen x

You Are What You Read: Top Five Most Important Books You Should Read Next

I think it is fair to say that I am a voracious reader. I also think it is unfair to say this has always been the case. I remember loving books at a young age. I would read them over and over again until the spines were so cracked you could barely make out the title; though I loved them anyway. However, that love began to feel more like a hindrance than a passion. When secondary school came around I started to read less and less, until eventually I stopped all together until a few years later.

I thought I would list my top 5 most important books that have shaped and influenced my life as well as my reading preferences. Maybe your next favourite book is on my list too!

5) Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan

Meet Darren. He’s sixteen going on immortal.

– Darren Shan

The reason this young adult/horror/vampire literature book is on my top 5 is a good one! This book was my first taste of the horror genre of which would lead to my love of another author featured on this list. In retrospect, this novel was the first step towards more serious stories aimed at an older audience.

During my time at secondary school, we attended a tutor group everyday for 40 minutes. Once a week we participated in an initiative called DEAR time: Drop Everything And Read time; in which we were expected to read a book for the entire lesson in silence. On a day like any other, I realise I had forgot to pack a book that morning. Fortunately, one of the lovely teaching assistants had a box full of books and there it was, amongst the dusty and mostly ripped books laid Cirque Du Freak. The title immediately caught my interest I grabbed it and got stuck in.

I was so enthralled by the end of the 40 minutes, I plucked up the courage to ask the TA if I could borrow the book and give it back once I had finished. All day I felt the book calling me. I tried to read it during my science lesson but was swiftly told to put it away. Finally when the end of the day came I returned to the magical world of vampires and consumed its words with such haste, I finished it within hours of arriving home.

The next day I returned the book and went straight to the library to check out the next book in the series. This was the first book that really inspired me to write a story of my own. I called it “The Nightwalkers”. I bought a notebook and from this my first ever attempt at novel writing came to be.

Thank you Darren Shan, the Vampires Assistant.

4) The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

“Bruno: We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that? ”

– John Boyne

This is another pivotal book of which shaped who I am and the type of books I am attracted to. I had an amazing primary school teacher in year 6 who believed we were old enough to read and understand the complex themes within this book. My early memories of this story take me back to sitting on the carpet with my peers intently listening to the characters developing and the story unfolding before our eyes. Despite our young age, I remember the emotions the story evoked from not only myself but my peers. We wrote stories from the perspective of the main characters, which helped form my understanding of empathy and the idea that everybody experiences the same event differently.

I re-read it a few years later and found I was reading a completely new book. My life experiences had changed how I interpreted it, the characters felt more real than they did the first time and my knowledge of Nazi Germany made the story even more harrowing.

This is a definite must read for anybody who loves historical fiction.

3) Kill The Father by Sandrone Dazieri

“Have you ever heard of the boy in the silo?”

– Sandrone Dazieri

I feel like I’m repeating myself with every book, but this is another pivotal novel in my reading career. It rejuvenated my passion for reading fiction. I had been reading so many academic texts, articles and books I had lost the desire to get lost in a fictional characters life.

I was a second year in Brighton, waiting for a delayed train back home. My phone was dead and the journey was long and cold. By chance, I walk into a small WHSmith to grab a drink when I spot a display of books on sale. I remember feeling a dusty switch flicking in my head and a light began shining inside me. It was a feeling of comfortable familiarity. I read the back of a few books until I came across this one. The plot was so interesting I felt my irritation at the thirty minute wait transform into a sense of gratitude. I was grateful I had thirty extra minutes to absorb this new story.

The feeling of dread caused by delayed trains and miserable weather dissipated as I got lost amongst its pages. The writing is beautiful, the characters are scary real and the story is original. Overall, an excellent, emotive and satisfying read.

2) IT by Stephen King

“Eddie discovered one of his childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.”

– Stephen King

It wouldn’t be a top 5 books without a bit of the King. Luckily for me, I grew up around the biggest Stephen King fan. My grandad must have owned all of King’s classic books when I was a kid; I would often wander in his room to see him reading one by the light of a single lamp. Although I love many of King’s novels, I have a special place for IT. I first read this mammoth of a novel as a young teenager and watched the TV mini-series soon after. There is something about being scared witless by his words that is so entertaining… Captivating even. Words on a page can evoke true fear, but that fear is remedied by the satisfying underlying themes present in this story.

My grandad also had a tattoo of a clown on his right shoulder blade holding a shiny knife. He always joked it was Pennywise the Dancing Clown. It made the story feel even more real.

Everyone needs to read this book at least once.

1) Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra

“As we grew older, the violence around us intensified. The moment a boy’s age hit double digits, he was no longer a mere nuisance to the older neighbourhood kids: he was a potential threat.”

– Lorenzo Carcaterra

This is the single most important book on my list, for multiple reasons. My mum had two copies of this book and she noticed I was reading the same old young adult books over and over. Although this book contains distressing and graphic language, she felt I was old enough to appreciate its contents. I must have been eleven or twelve the first time I read it and I have lost count how many times I have re-read it since.

Firstly, Carcaterra claims this book is based on real events he experienced as a young boy. I have never doubted his sincerity although it has been widely contested but I am not going to go into the politics surrounding this amazing book. My personal opinion is that he is being honest.

Secondly, the author beautifully shows what life was like in 1960’s New York, I felt as though I was walking along Hells Kitchen’s streets as I read every word. The story telling is outstanding.

Thirdly, this book changed my life. It changed who I am and I truly believe the heartbreaking stories of four childhood friends helped shape my emotional intelligence. Carcaterra retold his story with such elegance, such vivid detail and with pain lurking in and amongst its pages it forced me to face the fact that the world can be a horrible place. It taught me to understand the evil in the world; but more importantly it showed me you don’t have to succumb to the demons living amongst us.

My Beloved Copy

 

As you can see, this book has been through a lot. It has definitely been well read but it has sadly sustained tearing on the spine and front cover over the years. This is partly due to water damage – I brought this book with me to University and managed to spill a bottle of water over it. However, most of the damage is due to its age. This copy once belonged to my mum, she bought it back in 1996; the year it was published but more curiously… The year I was born. Make of this what you will!

In Conclusion…

I hope if anyone is indeed reading this, you have enjoyed my little list! I enjoyed taking a look into my past and showing my appreciation for these momentous books. Each story takes me back to the first time I read them and I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them with anyone who stumbles upon my blog.

Feel free to comment your most important reads!

Signed,

Jen x